Stela from Skybox Labs is not exactly a groundbreaking phenomenon in gaming. It follows a tried and trusted formula created by puzzle platformers years ago but that’s not to say the game is bad. On the contrary, Stela is one of the most enjoyable side scrolling platformers I’ve played on Nintendo Switch this year and one that I’ll probably remember for quite some time.
In Stela, players will take on the role of a human female in a mysterious ancient world. Players will move their character around and solve puzzles to progress further. The game establishes its mysteriousness right from the get go though and players will surely die a couple of times in the first section of the game. Being overrun by beetles and being eaten alive is not a fun experience and the sooner you figure out the beginning section, the better.
Stela plays out rather simply. Players will be able to interact with objects and push or pull them to solve puzzles or jump to reach higher areas to progress further. The game however excels by having incredible set pieces to play through. As your player character runs through the environment, their movement is rather lifelike and this adds to the overall enjoyability of the game especially when the camera pans out and shows off the gorgeous environments you’re traversing.
As you progress throughout the game’s environments, you’ll encounter monoliths with glowing hieroglyphics depicted on them. These ancient pictures unlock descriptions in the game’s collectible menu and these further explain the story on offer here. Players need not read through these, but they do add another layer to the game’s overall story that helps to explain it somewhat.
With that said, the story is up for interpretation and you’ll probably still have more questions than answers here. Why are there mysterious human figures that smash you to death? Why is the world burning? What’s happening with the giant tentacled monster in the caves? Stela is open-ended and there’s a lot to explain and sadly a lot of gamers might find this off-putting.
Graphically, Stela is gorgeous with a range of beautiful environments to traverse. The snow region and forest region in particular look great and are a feast for the eyes. The soundtrack Stela employs plays just as great a part of the game as the visual effects and cues do. It is flat out amazing with every single track conveying a message to the player. From the orchestral ensemble that plays in the burning forest to the mysteriously dramatic theme that plays toward the end of the game, Stela’s soundtrack is exceptionally good.
Gameplay in Stela is only let down by a lack of direction in certain areas and the slight problems the player character has with grabbing onto ledges involving button press timing. Overall, Stela is an enjoyable game that clearly draws inspiration from the likes of Limbo and Inside. Players who enjoyed those games will certainly find a lot to enjoy here. Stela is quite shortcoming in at just around 2 hours long in total. It is still definitely worth playing through though because those 2 hours are filled with gorgeous visuals and great content.
Get Stela on Xbox One: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/p/stela/9n5kn782gjwx
Find Stela on Apple Arcade: apple.co/-Stela
This review is based on the Nintendo Switch Version of the game
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Stela is a cinematic, atmospheric platformer about a young woman witnessing the final days of a mysterious ancient world. Overcome daunting challenges, treacherous terrain, and gargantuan beasts while traversing a decaying land. Manipulate the environment to solve elaborate puzzles and creep past dangerous creatures under cover of muted landscapes, all set to an original soundtrack. Survive sweeping environments including mysterious towns, haunting forests, and massive subterranean ruins brought to life in an atmospheric experience.
Product Currency: GBP
Product Price: 15.99